Is Vote Buying a Nigerian Political Culture? Field Experience From Political Parties: Remarks by Oseloka H Obaze at the “Electoral Integrity in Nigeria” Workshop in Abuja

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We are asked to interrogate if vote buying is part of the Nigerian political culture.  THE ANSWER IS NO, even as the practice is prevalent and spiraling out of control.

Let me preface my brief remarks by borrowing a Chinese Adage. It says, “Society creates crime people commit them.” What this means is that whatever a state or society accepts as normal, becomes the norm, even if it is criminal in its intent and nature.

Over the years we have had all forms of political and electioneering challenges. Ballot snatching, thuggery, doctoring results etc. Vote buying is a new phenomenon. It has correlation, to our enduring poverty, to failed promises by leaders and politicians, to missed opportunities which include inadequate  voters’ education.

The other corollary is positive –  improved voters registration; improved voters identification and improved voting methods, namely the PVC. These improvements have translated to candidates not being able to tweak the process in a rogue manner, hence they result to the final act before the vote – to buy votes and influence voting at the point of implementation.

Those who engage in vote buying exploit the lacuna in the system. Such actions are illegal, both under our criminal penal code and our electoral laws.

Finally, there is an ethical concern, even if it seems idealist. The risk is that if unchallenged, what started off as an aberration will soon enough become the norm – and part of our culture. Those who accept the cash see it as part of the trickle down economics. Some also see it as their cashing in on the candidates who are willing to run for public office. I will stop here.

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